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NFL changes rules, makes pass interference penalties (and non-calls) reviewable

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The goal is to rectify high-impact missed calls, but how significant will this change become?

NFL: NFC Championship Game-Los Angeles Rams at New Orleans Saints John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports

NFL fans should not have a reason to complain about a non-call costing one team a game or a trip to the Super Bowl, at least in the 2019 season. In a somewhat surprising decision at the league’s annual meeting this week, the owners approved a rules change to allow pass interference penalties to be subject to replay review for the upcoming season. Not only will penalties that are called be reviewable, but so will non-calls.

This change proposal came from the NFL’s Competition Committee, but it was almost certainly driven by Committee member Sean Payton, the New Orleans Saints’ head coach. The Saints lost in the NFC Championship Game in January, due in part to blatant pass interference against Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman that went unflagged late in the game. As a result, Payton likely had a key role in shaping the resolution that implemented this change.

Interestingly, this was one of a few resolutions regarding replay that were proposed. Another suggested making both pass interference and roughing the passer penalties reviewable; however, the league’s ownership group evidently did not want to extend the rule change to accommodate both types of penalties.

Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews was flagged for questionable roughing penalties in back-to-back weeks early in the 2018 season, one of which negated a potential game-clinching interception by Jaire Alexander. However, under the new rules that have been approved, that penalty still would not be subject to replay review.

In addition to making interference penalties reviewable, the rule change also makes any try attempt — PATs and two-point conversions — subject to automatic review. That means that questionable plays should be reviewed by the officials automatically rather than requiring a head coach to actively challenge a play.

This change is intended only to alter obvious, game-changing interference penalties where the officials make a clear error. It will be intriguing to see just how often challenges or reviews of these calls are reversed in the coming season.

This change comes on the heels of the league shooting down a proposal to change onside kicks. Another notable change suggestion, which would allow both teams an opportunity to possess the football in overtime under all circumstances, has been tabled for further discussion at the NFL’s spring meeting in May.

Here is the summarized language of the rule change, and click here for complete details on each of the changes approved at this week’s meetings.

For one year only, expands the reviewable plays in Instant Replay to include pass interference, called or not called on the field. Also expands automatic replay reviews to include scoring plays and turnovers negated by a foul, and any Try attempt (extra point or two-point conversion).